A tendon is a tough band of fibrous connective tissue that is capable of withstanding tension as it connects muscle to bone. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body. It connects the calf muscle to the heel bone and is involved in just about every movement of the foot. Problems with the Achilles tendon are the result of tears that have occurred with the passing of time. Two conditions that are associated with the Achilles tendon are Achilles tendinopathy and Achilles tendon tear or rupture.
Achilles tendinopathy refers to tendinitis and tendinosis. Tendinitis occurs when the tendon becomes inflamed. Usually it is not, contrary to popular belief, a painful condition. Tendinosis occurs when there are small tears in the tissue that is in and around the tendon. It is the usual culprit when there is pain. Achilles tendinopathy can have symptoms that range from mild to severe. Range of movement and ankle strength can be lessened. Ankle swelling occurs.
Repetition and overuse during activities are the usual causes of Achilles tendonopathy. Men over 30 years of age are prone to experience Achilles tendinopathy.
An Achilles tendon tear or rupture occurs when the tendon suffers a partial or complete tear. Partial tears may cause mild pain. There may or may not be mild symptoms. Complete tears, or ruptures, always cause pain that is sudden and sharp. More than likely, they are accompanied by a popping sound and a sudden loss of movement and strength. Bruising and swelling follow. Ruptures are caused by forceful and sudden movement that causes the calf muscle to be stressed. Recreational athletes, especially those 30 to 50 years of age, are prone to experience Achilles tendon ruptures during extreme activities. However, the basic acts of running and jumping can also lead to ruptures.
Achilles tendon problems are diagnosed after a doctor looks at the back of the leg and checks for swelling and pain. Information about your health history is also a factor in making a diagnosis. An x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI might be necessary in some cases.
Ice, rest, and exercises designed to strengthen and stretch the Achilles tendon are possible treatments for Achilles tendon problems. Anti-inflammatory medication, sports massage, and ultrasound treatment can also help the healing process. Surgery is a possible treatment when other treatments have not been successful.
Problems with the Achilles tendon can be prevented. Simple warm-up and stretching exercises should be done before exercising or playing sports. Using the muscles and staying in shape will go a long way to keeping you from having to deal with Achilles tendinopathy or an Achilles tendon tear or rupture. If you experience pain and suspect that it might be due to an Achilles tendon issue, Dr. Jeffrey Burmeister, DPM, and his experienced staff are ready to diagnose, treat, and see you on your way to pain-free living.